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  • June -1 – 2012

    From our correspondent in Amsterdam



    Researchers have discovered a newly mutated, highly contagious viral form, capable of influencing the lives of millions of people across the world.

    Scientists were quick to add, however, that they do not believe it to be a mutation of boviene spongiforme encefalopathie (BSE) or mad cow disease which was prevalent in the years 1990-2000. Neither is it believed to be related to the more recent, but deadly H5N1 bird flu strain.

    It does not pose an immediate threat to global health, but there are however causes for concern, according to a spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Bovine Avian Virus (JH032009), otherwise known as cowbird fever, is now widespread through the whole of the United States, large areas of Europe, Asia and India, with isolated pockets in seemingly unrelated places as Iceland and the Philippines. There has been at least one serious outbreak recorded in Finland.

    Researchers are not sure of the origin of Bovine Avian Virus (JH032009), but it is thought to have been developed in a laboratory situation at different locations throughout the world as early as 2009. Since then Bovine Avian Virus (BAV), or cowbird fever, has been growing and spreading steadily.

    Researchers and scientists have become interested in this new mutation because of the unusual symptoms which seem quite different to more common viral forms.

    Independent clinical studies of volunteers with BAV have shown heightened levels of activity in the brain centres having to do with empathy, compassion, communication and humour.

    Volunteers were observed to be restless first thing in the morning and late into the evening. They spend long hours staring into blue-lit computer screens long after everyone else has gone to bed, and switch on their computers again before they have had their morning coffee. They can be seen walking around pointing cameras at the sky, the ground, the horizon, or in one case, a dead canary.

    But the one symptom common to all those with cowbird fever is what one researcher describes as “life-witness secretions”, the uncontrollable desire and ability for storytelling, the need to share their experiences, opinions, thoughts and creative upwellings in the form of words accompanied by a potent image.

    Cowbird fever-infected people describe their situation as having a positive effect on their lives. Although some complained that their more domestic chores were left undone.

    They feel more loved, connected, engaged, listened to. One woman said she felt ‘effervescent, and energized’. One man feels the difficult urge to express himself in a foreign language, while a care-giver in South Carolina is reported to have said that the cowbird fever may have saved the life of a young man who has spent months in the ICU.

    One woman described herself as feeling boredom, but this condition was thought to be an exception.

    A research worker who doesn’t wish to be identified, hoped that this Bovine Avian Virus would become pandemic because of the positive effect it seems to have on people.



    image:
    glass microbiology sculptures
    by Luke Jerram
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